Pope cuts short hurricane memorial trip due to storm
The Pope travelled to the far eastern Philippines to comfort survivors of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan yesterday, then cut his own trip short because of another approaching storm.
After a windy and rainy morning mass, Francis headed to an abbreviated lunch with 30 survivors of the 2013 storm, and then to a cathedral in the city of Palo.
Entering without the usual ceremony and procession, Francis took the microphone and told a surprised crowd that he would have to leave four hours ahead of schedule.
"I apologise to all of you," he said, speaking in Italian through a translator. "I am sad about this, truly saddened."
The Pope said the pilots of the Philippine Airlines jet told him the weather would worsen, adding: "We barely have time to get to the plane."
The Pope's plane apparently left without incident, but a private jet carrying several Philippine cabinet officials who accompanied Francis to Leyte blew its front tyres during take-off following the Pope's plane and veered off the runway. There were no injuries and ambulances evacuated the passengers, police said.
Tropical Storm Mekkhala was expected to make landfall on nearby Samar Island in the late afternoon or early evening with winds of 60mph-80mph, the weather bureau said.
Earlier, Francis had addressed 150,000 people gathered in an field in Tacloban - the city hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan.
He told them: "So many of you have lost everything. I don't know what to say to you, but the Lord does know. Some of you lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silent. And I walk with you all with my silent heart."
Many wept as Francis spoke, overcome by the memory of the 2013 storm that levelled entire villages with ferocious winds and waves and left 7,300 people dead or missing. The Pope joined them in solidarity, even donning the same yellow rain poncho over his vestments that mass-goers were given because of the rain.